Text-To-Speech (TTS) technology allows text on a webpage to be read out loud by a computer generated voice. The quality of TTS varies considerably and in most cases can be immediately recognised as 'non human'. That aside, TTS voices are available in different languages and once installed will work with any TTS enabled software or website. Here are three ways of using the technology as a learning tool on an interactive whiteboard or individual computer.
- WordTalk is a MS Word toolbar, developed by Edinburgh University which can read and spell check any Word document. This presentation describes some of its features and compares it to its commercial equivalents. This guide explains how to install the toolbar and where to download multilingual text-to-speech voices.
- Speakonia not only reads text it also lets you record it as a wav file if you register for free.
- PollyGlotto is a website which uses SitePal avatars to read translations in a range of languages.
TTS is no substitute for a real voice. Nonetheless, these resources do allow students the possibilty of hearing language they are trying to learn instead of having to read it. A teacher podcast would be undeniably better. However, if that is not available, the more independent learner may want to take advantage of such TTS facilities to access material and listen to good models of language. Generally speaking, how could one argue about that?